Friday, May 14, 2010

You don't need a time machine to go to futureland anymore


 Yesterday we began our day at futureworld (located where the red star is in the image to the left) in Rotterdam where we had the opportunity to see the dredging project that is currently being done to expand the port of Rotterdam. Known as Maasvlakte 2, an addition to Maasvlakte 1 which was completed in the 70's, the expansion will develop the port further into the noordzee and increase it's capacity drastically, maintaining the port's position as the fourth largest port in the world. By dredging coarse sand from the sea, vessels deliver the sand to the desired location using one of two methods. The first, as seen in the picture to the left, is to spray the sand and the second is to attach piping to the dredging vessel and pump the sand into location. The picture outlined in red to the left is adding sand to what will be the land in the red box located in the top artistic image of what the port will look like when it is completed. The project is estimated to cost 2.9 billion euros and will begin to open in 2013 when the first company will set up its cargo containers on the new land. A whopping 365 million m^3 of sand is estimated to be required for the project which is being done by two of the largest hydraulic companies in the world under the name Puma. Futureland acts as a museum for the project and includes many visual opportunities for the visitor to learn how the land is formed, the time frame under which the project will be completed and examples of other large scale dredging projects such as the palm islands and the world located in Dubi. In addition, information is provided about the environmental impacts of the project and what the port is doing to make up for the cost of manipulating the environment in such a way. 

After we had seen enough of the port expansion, it was time to leave futureland and return to the present day with a boat trip of the public transportation persuasion which took us directly through the Maeslantkering storm surge barrier. When the Delta works project began, there were two waterways in particular that were not desirable to close off. One was the Westerschelde, which connected to Belgium and the other was the Nieuwe Waterweg, which held the port of Rotterdam. In an attempt to protect their people from the storm surge of the North Sea, the Dutch set out to find a design for a barrier that would remain open leaving no impact on entering ships, but that would close and protect the people in the case of a storm.
After considering several different models presented by engineering companies, they finally choose what is now the Maeslantkering barrier. Concrete blocks were placed on the waterway's floor to prevent sand movement when the gates closed, and two large, moving barriers were fabricated. Both barriers, one on either side of the river, pivot on huge ball joints and are a total of 210 m long and 22 m high. When the computer detects a specified water level rise, the two barriers pivot on the joint using a gear like device that is located on top of the barriers which meet each other in the middle, leaving an approximately 1 m gap in between, as seen in the model rendition of the closing located in the above image's top right corner. When triggered to close, the barriers move into the water and begin filling from the bottom causing them to sink and block potential storm surge. One of the most important things in the use of the barrier is the ball joint hinge which allows a high degree of motion in the movement of the barrier. 

After marveling for quite some time at the intensity and brilliance of the Maeslantkering barrier, we set off on our way home while of course taking the scenic route. On the way back to Delft we stopped and took a stroll on the beach of the North Sea. I was surprised by how much foam was on the beach and found the sand to be much different than the sand that we encounter on the west coast of Florida. Never the less, it was beautiful and I can now say that I touched the North Sea, and took a picture (and shells)! Oh, don't tell anyone, but I also pet a cute little doggy which is something that I have wanted to do since I arrived. While anticipating our trip to the Netherlands I stumbled across a website that discussed the number of glass houses (green houses) located in the country and right by the beach we were lucky enough to stumble over a vast layout of them right by the beach.

Today, Friday, I took the day to rest and recuperate from information filled week that lay behind me. I am very excited about all that I have seen and learned and am very anxious to begin working in the labs here at UNESCO-IHE. This already has been an incredible experience and it's hard to believe that I have been given the opportunity to stay so long and learn so much.



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